Senate Majority Leader Emeritus Robert M. Hertzberg
Senate Majority Leader Emeritus Robert Hertzberg was first elected to the California State Assembly in 1996. He then served as the 64th Speaker of the California State Assembly, unanimously elected by both parties in 2000 and 2001. After his tenure as Speaker, Hertzberg set out to the private sector as a clean energy entrepreneur and in 2014, he returned to state government when he was again elected to represent nearly 1 million people in the San Fernando Valley in the California State Senate.
Hertzberg is known for taking on the biggest and most challenging issues facing California, and for brokering some of the toughest negotiations. In the words of one veteran Sacramento columnist, he is “an intense bundle of energy, an all-night negotiator.” The Los Angeles Daily News said he, “has relentless dedication and indefatigable energy...he has a reputation for integrity and perseverance.” The Los Angeles Times said: “He is a high velocity wonk; he loves big ideas and will flesh out every one of them if you give him a chance.”
Hertzberg’s areas of public policy interest know no limit. He is characterized as a legislator who fears nothing and takes on everything. From criminal justice (battling the unfair and unjust cash bail system in California) to technology related issues (negotiating the 2018 passage of the California Consumer Privacy Act, enacting the strongest data privacy protections in the nation), Hertzberg approaches every problem through a lens of governing for the next generation, not the next election.
There’s nothing more critical to the success of the next generation than education. Hertzberg’s unwavering commitment to California schools began during his time in the Assembly when Hertzberg negotiated a compromise that allowed the Legislature to break a decade-long logjam regarding building and repairing schools, resulting in the voters supporting the largest school construction program in American history in the early 2000s. More recently, he eliminated the practice of school lunch shaming with his landmark Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017.
In the field of higher education, he co-authored the 2000 bill that expanded the state's existing Cal-Grant program, guaranteeing funding for every qualified student who applied. Hertzberg was instrumental in making the University of California’s 10th campus in Merced a reality.
Among his many legislative efforts during his time in the Assembly that have lasting impacts to this day, Hertzberg authored the Women's Contraceptive Equity Act, which required health care service plan contracts to cover contraception, and the Hertzberg-Leslie Witness Protection Act, which established a Witness Protection Program in California.
Hertzberg is also a leader in California’s fight against climate change and its impacts like drought and wildfire. He helped shape and pass legislation that hammered nearly seven decades of California-Colorado River water disputes. As Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, Hertzberg championed resource conservation standards that will guide our state for generations: he oversaw the passage of a parks bond to improve and safeguard our state and local parks, as well as the most significant changes to forestry protection laws in a generation. He authored legislation to avoid future drought by establishing permanent water efficiency standards and goals across the state, making water efficiency a way of life for Californians. He also fought for clean water for all in his 2021 legislation strengthening the state’s drought response in rural and small communities.
His passion for the environment extended beyond his time in the Legislature. After he termed out of the Assembly in 2002, Hertzberg became a global clean-energy entrepreneur. He helped create one of the first solar manufacturing companies in Los Angeles, and co-launched a company that produced inexpensive, lightweight solar panels for use around the world. In recognition of his clean energy efforts in Rwanda, he received the “World Bank Award for Lighting Africa,” and the United Kingdom-based Guardian Magazine named him one of the “50 People Who Could Save the Planet.”
Throughout his time in the Legislature, Hertzberg has always been a champion for the communities he represents in the San Fernando Valley. Named “One of the Most Influential People in Southern California” by the Los Angeles Times, he is deeply committed to delivering results for the Valley. Hertzberg launched Metro’s Orange Line and the construction of the CSU Northridge Valley Performing Arts Center. He also helped fund the construction and modernization of 38 new Valley schools, the construction of more than 200 million dollars of sound walls throughout the Valley and the Skirball Cultural Center.
He served as chair of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, one of the largest in the nation, in 2004 and again in 2011. He also chaired the World Trade Center Association Los Angeles – Long Beach. He serves on the boards of the USC Price School of Public Policy, the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, and the Claremont McKenna College Rose Institute of State and Local Government, among dozens of other civic and public policy boards.
Hertzberg is dedicated to improving government so it works for all. His work in this space includes participation in bipartisan groups like The Think Long Committee. The Committee’s work included reform of the California budget process, rethinking the initiative system, term limits, and redistricting – to name a few.
In addition to being former Chair of the Committee on Natural Resources and Water, Majority Leader Emeritus Hertzberg serves on the Senate Committees on Governance and Finance; Judiciary; Elections and Constitutional Amendments; and Energy, Utilities and Communications; along with the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and Joint Legislative Rules Committee.
In 1979, Hertzberg earned his law degree from University of California, Hastings College of the Law and became a member of the California Bar. The Los Angeles Business Journal named him one of the top ten lawyers in Los Angeles, and The Daily Journal has repeatedly named him one of the top 100 lawyers in California.
Hertzberg has two grown sons. David is a classical music composer and a Juilliard graduate, and Daniel graduated from Goucher College and, like his father, loves politics and public policy. Daniel is a candidate to succeed his father as Senator to represent the San Fernando Valley.
Majority Leader Emeritus Bob Hertzberg represents nearly one million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at sd18.senate.ca.gov/district. After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Learn more at senate.ca.gov/hertzberg.